Accountability says a lot

  • Published
  • By Maj. Tracy L. Bell
  • 319th Comptroller Squadron commander
"I did it." These words, while simple, denote a sense of pride for some, and shame for others. But point out what I consider to be a fundamental building block of leadership--namely, personal accountability.

Most all of us are familiar with principles of leadership and have a solid grasp of what it means to lead. Whether through our own experiences or formal studies, at some point we've each identified those characteristics which we believe are essential to leadership and ultimately determine a leader's success or failure. While some might say that being charismatic is essential to succeed as a leader, others might feel that decisiveness or a leader's ability to think on their feet is the key. Regardless of the characteristic you find most endearing in a leader, it undoubtedly is tied to, rooted in, or is a subset of personal accountability. But make no mistake; holding yourself accountable for your own actions can be a daunting task.

Think back to how you got your current job, or why you were put in charge of a particular project. Odds are it didn't "just happen". Rather, you were selected because of past performance or because you have a reputation for doing good work. If you ask your boss why he or she hired you, I'm certain they'll tell you that it was at least partly because they knew they could count on you. When you stop and think about it, that's an extremely powerful statement. Whether you're a crew chief, office manager, flight sergeant, section supervisor, or squadron commander--someone, somewhere, selected you to lead because they knew they could count on you to get the job done.

Now compare your success story with a situation where you fell short of the mark. Maybe you failed to identify something you knew was wrong, or maybe you didn't give a project your very best effort and it fell flat. While you may have been the only person who knew that situation wasn't right or that you only gave half an effort, the fact still remains that you knew, and did nothing to correct the situation--an equally powerful statement.

In either instance you were forced to face that one person you can't escape--yourself, and emphatically state that you "did it". You either got the job done or you didn't. Whether anyone else knew about your success or failure is irrelevant--you knew. It's this level of personal accountability that must be at the heart of any discussion about leadership, and is in the heart of every leader.

Ultimately it comes down to one truism: as a leader you might not be perfect, and you might not always succeed, but you must always take accountability for your own actions or inactions. Doing so might be the only thing that identifies you as a leader in the end.